They say that no man is an island, but you would never know it by the way many small businesses employ technology in the workplace.
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Rather than working together, many employees perform their jobs on their own computers, isolated from one another and the workplace in general. But what if you could connect your employees' workstations, making it possible for them to communicate, coordinate, and collaborate at the touch of a button? The possibilities would be endless, right?
Well, in fact the possibilities are endless because connecting your company's computers is easier than you think. With basic computer skills and a little common sense you will be well on your way to creating a PC network in your small business.
What is a network?
A network is a system of connections that link your business' computers to one another. Once connected, a network can be used to exchange e-mails, coordinate scheduling, relay data, and collaborate on projects. They also come in handy if more than one person needs to access a central source of information such as a customer database.
How does it work?
Network connections are established by using one of three different methods:
- Ethernet. Ethernet networks transmit information through physical cables that are wired throughout the workplace. All of the cables are connected to a central hub. If you plan to share access to an internet connection, the cables will also need to be connected to a router. Although Ethernet is the oldest form of networking, it's also proven itself to be very reliable.
- Phone System Networks. Instead of running cables throughout the office, you can also create a network using existing telephone lines. The network hub and computers plug directly into your telephone outlets and the telephone lines relay information back and forth across the network. Although this may seem like a quick and easy networking solution, be advised that these systems are very slow compared to other options.
- Wireless. Wireless networks are a highly affordable and popular way to create an office network. For a relatively minimal investment, you can connect your computers using a wireless system rather than cables or telephone lines. Speed is good on wireless networks, but you may encounter disruptions if the signal is impeded by concrete walls or distances outside the transmitter's range. Security is another concern, although most wireless networks come with explicit instructions about how to make the network secure.
What is a server?
In addition to connecting their computers to one another, many small businesses opt to connect their computers to an office server. A server is a computer whose primary purpose is to serve the other computers (called clients) in the office. You can use your server to store and retrieve common data (e.g. a customer database) and as a place to backup information from client computers.
Despite its added expense, servers are a great addition to any office network. However, if your business needs to regularly share common data, you can't afford not to have one.